Tommy Ahlquist, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, said he hopes to find $100 million inefficiently used in the budget in his first days in office at a speech Friday in the 1912 Center.
He discussed taxes and control of federal land and education, among other issues.
Ahlquist’s speech in Moscow is part of his tour of all 44 counties in 44 days. He began Sept. 21.
He is a property developer in Boise and a former emergency room doctor and is running for governor of Idaho against U.S. Rep. Raúl Labrador, Lt. Gov. Brad Little and Lisa Marie.
He said Idaho needs to look at taxes as a “three-legged school,” stressing the importance of balancing sales, property and income tax. Ahlquist has owned several small businesses and has served on multiple boards and committees in Boise.
“I will argue with anyone that 7.4 percent personal income tax is too high,” Ahlquist said. “We compete with other states around us that are five percent and zero and we’re losing businesses.”
Ahlquist said he wants to reform taxes to create one that is flat and fair for all, and one that is balanced such that government spending should not exceed income.
He also said his plan of finding $100 million of inefficiently used tax dollars is just a starting point in his mission to stretch tax dollars.
Control of federal lands was another issue Ahlquist expressed concern about. He said the founding fathers did not intend for the federal government to own 62 percent of Idaho.
“It’s been that way forever,” Ahlquist said. “We have shown over and over and over again that we in Idaho… are better stewards of our land than bureaucrats in Washington?”
He said he saw the difference in management once while visiting a rancher in Bruno, who grazed on private, state and federal lands.
“We (should) do everything to develop programs to use the land but it stays in their control for now,” Ahlquist said. “And we maintain access.”
He said he also hopes to meet with all superintendents, as part of his plans to take a more hands-off approach to education if elected Governor.
“We have got to get out of the way and let teachers teach,” Ahlquist said. “Let the people that know and love our kids take care of our kids.”
He also looks to reform higher education in Idaho, as he said 50 percent of dual credit courses taught in Idaho don’t transfer to public universities. The universal numbering of courses needs to be improved as well, he said, because universities lack consistency in numbering the same courses the same across the board.
He said Arizona State University provides a great example of what universities working more closely with local businesses can do to reach out for funds, while facing declining public funding. He said higher education should create policy to benefit the job market.
“We need to drive policies to make universities relevant to the modern economy and modern education system,” Ahlquist said.
Kyle Pfannenstiel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @pfannyyy
Correction: October 12, 2017
Due to an Argonaut error, an earlier version of this article misstated the amount of inefficiently used tax dollars Ahlquist is looking to find. It is $100 million.